HELENA — Governor Steve Bullock announced Thursday $1 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds has been made available to assist Montanans in finding and enrolling in affordable and comprehensive insurance coverage.
“During these difficult and unprecedented times, access to quality, affordable health care is critically important to Montanans’ well-being,” Gov. Bullock said. “By helping small primary care and safety net providers find and assist uninsured Montanans, we're making sure Montanans who need affordable health care coverage can get it and can keep themselves and their families safe.”
Of the allocated money, $700,000 will be divided into $30,000 grants for rural and safety-net healthcare providers. The funds can be used to hire additional staff and support other efforts aimed at assisting individuals getting signed up for healthcare.
The remaining $300,000 will be devoted to Cover Montana, a program administered by the Montana Primary Care Association to support providers and coordinate outreach and enrollment efforts. The funds come from the $1.25 billion in CARES Act funding distributed to Montana.
Eligible providers include Montana’s hospitals, community health centers, urban Indian clinics, and the eight Tribal nations in Montana that currently employ or will hire certified application counselors to help people find coverage.
Grants will be awarded on a first-serve basis starting on Aug. 10 to providers who have a certified application counselor or will use the funds to hire and train one.
“There could not be a more critical time for Montanans to have health insurance,” said Jill-Marie Steeley, CEO of PureView Health Center. “People who lack health insurance are more likely to delay or forgo needed healthcare, both for chronic and emergency health conditions.”
Thousands of Montanans lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in turn, lost their health insurance. Individuals have a 60 day period after losing a job in which they can file for special enrolment through healthcare.gov.
Gov. Bullock said the financial burden placed upon a hospitalized COVID-19 patient can be devastating if they are not insured, with costs ranging from $10,000 to upwards of $20,000.
Todd Wilson, executive director of Helena Indian Alliance-Leo Pocha Memorial Clinic, praised the new funding and said health insurance can not only help prevent financial ruin to a family, it can also help them get back on their feet.
“We’ve had families who couldn’t afford any services really fall through the system because they weren’t able to get services,” said Wilson.”By signing up and getting some sort of insurance, where that’s the ACA or Medicaid, we have seen individuals literally come off the streets homeless and with substance abuse problems, to finding permanent housing and jobs.”
The Helena Indian Alliance-Leo Pocha Clinic services are open to everyone, and more information can be found here.